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Post office reopens - but pensioners lose out

PUBLISHED: 13:07 03 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:28 07 September 2010

Maida Vale residents have welcomed the reopening of their post office, but say they need more than stamps and parcel deliveries. The Formosa Street branch, which was due to shut as part of nationwide Royal Mail closures on October 9, will re-launch just t

Maida Vale residents have welcomed the reopening of their post office, but say they need more than stamps and parcel deliveries.

The Formosa Street branch, which was due to shut as part of nationwide Royal Mail closures on October 9, will re-launch just three days later. But it will only provide postal services. Customers can send letters and parcels, buy stamps and courier packages but will not be able to pay their bills or cash their pensions.

Elizabeth Virgo, from the Paddington Waterways and Maida Vale Society, said after months of petitioning for the post office to stay open she had mixed feelings about the latest announcement.

"It's rising from the ashes but it's not as we would like it to have been because we would have liked it to go on as it was," she said.

"It won't be able to deal with the elderly and incapacitated because they cannot draw their pensions.

"So it's a slightly hollow victory. But it is a victory and the brothers who run the shop would not have gone down this road if it hadn't been for our support."

In March, 400 people including Blackadder and Time Team star Tony Robinson protested the decision to close the branch.

On hearing about the latest development, local resident Mr Robinson said he was pleased the campaigning had paid off.

"At a time of such international gloom, how great to have a good news story in the heart of our locality," he said.

"It was really impressive to be among the hundreds of local people who took to the streets in order to try to save our post office, although initially it seemed as though our actions had been to no avail.

"But the new deal is a happy compromise. We'll lose a few services, but at least we'll still have a post office at the heart of our community."

Dhimant Patel, postmaster at Formosa Street for the past 30 years, said he has sent letters to all those who campaigned informing them of the new arrangements.

He confirmed that the "post shop" will open on October 13 after he paid a £5,600 fee from his redundancy money to Royal Mail.

"We'll start doing postage, recorded and special delivery, packages for Christmas - everything related to postal services," he said.

"We've been phoning around Royal Mail and DHL saying this is what we want to do and they have given us reduced rates.

"We already have five companies that have given up their franking machines and signed up with us."

But he admitted there would not be the same facilities as before for older people.

"The problem with pensioners is that they always want to do a couple of things together like paying their bills, getting their pension and sending a letter. I want to allow them to keep doing this but I can't."

Despite the failure of its last minute attempt to save the Maida Vale branch, the council has praised the new plans.

Communities and economic development boss, Cllr Brian Connell, said: "We are delighted residents will continue to benefit from core postal services in Formosa Street and I have personally written to Mr Patel to wish him the best of luck with his new business enterprise.

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